Working overseas & Fieldwork

Expand All

You should consider your own physical and psychological safety, as well as that of your research team, when working overseas.

General advice

Health information

  • The Travel Clinic of the University Occupational Health Service provides travel advice, immunisations, and antimalarial prophylaxis.
  • The NHS provides travel health advice per country.
  • The Social Sciences Division has produced a factsheet on managing secondary trauma. This is trauma caused by conducting research in difficult working environments.


The Social Sciences Division run many fieldwork-related courses to support researchers working overseas. The Safety Office also run fieldwork safety overseas courses


You can apply for the University Travel Insurance or register your travel details by completing the online application form here. You will need to prepare a risk assessment and upload the approved version as part of your application.

Insurance should be applied for at the time of booking your trip to make sure there is no gap in the cancellation cover.

Your department will refer your application to the Insurance Office if any of the referral criteria applies in order to arrange cover.

Note that the University travel insurance will not cover family members travelling with an Oxford employee. The ABI website provides useful advice for those considering their insurance requirements.

Further information on travel insurance (e.g. condition of cover) can be found on the insurance office website.

There are several pieces of guidance in answer to this question. Here are extracts from relevant University policy:

HR: The University HR guidance on staff working overseas is divided into two sections: new or existing UK-based employees undertaking work overseas and overseas residents working overseas.

Insurance: Legal requirements for liability insurances differ for staff based overseas. In order to arrange insurance to suit the relevant country's legal requirements please contact the Insurance Office. Note that the University travel insurance will not cover local / casual staff.

Ethics: Guidance on responsibility for fieldworkers (Best Practice Guidance 01 on Researcher Safety)

Legal Services advise that the legal/employment status of overseas field workers paid in cash at a daily rate will depend on the applicable laws of the relevant country. Advice should be sought from qualified local lawyers about the University's tax and employment law obligations so that it can ensure that these are met. (This advice should be sought through Legal Services but funded by the department.)

The University's motor insurance policy does not provide cover for the ownership or hire of motor vehicles whilst abroad. All motor vehicle ownership/ use outside the UK needs to be insured locally. Take out the highest indemnity limit offered by the vehicle hire company to ensure you are fully covered. Care needs to be taken to ensure that an appropriate level of insurance be arranged, as it is quite possible that the legal minimum for third party risks (including personal injury) of some countries may be very low, and may not include any third party property damage (including for any other vehicle which might be damaged, and as can be the case in certain territories, including the vehicle hired).

Clear documentation should always be obtained, particularly when hiring a vehicle and any questions raised with the Insurance Team.

It is essential to think carefully about the type of money arrangement that might be needed while working overseas eg which currency will be used, are ATMs available? Can cards be used to make purchase? It is strongly advised to allow sufficient time to arrange money matters and not to leave it to the last minute

Where possible goods and services should be paid for directly by the University.

For your travel and accommodation expenses, you should use the University preferred supplier. Using the University preferred supplier minimises risk and demonstrates duty of care (e.g. emergency support provided, travellers’ location in case of emergency).

It is possible to arrange an advance for travel. Direct payment to the recipient’s bank account is preferred. However a prepaid card or cash advance can be arranged. This includes ordering foreign currency. Contact the Payments Team for direct, electronic payment requests and the Cashiers Team for pre-paid card or cash advance requests.

Departmental Expenses guidance and Claimant’s Expenses Guidance are provided by the Finance Division. This includes advice on what can be claimed and describe the process to submit a claim.

Please note that all claims must be supported by evidence i.e. receipts or equivalent proof of purchase. Credit card slips or copies of bank statements alone are not normally considered to be as sufficient evidence to support a claim.

The University operates an overseas bank account in South Africa currently and the use of this needs to be discussed with Ben Heath or financial reporting team.

Otherwise, any overseas expenses for University staff will need to be funded within the current expenses policy i.e. through advances and expense claims. See section above.

When entering a country you may be required to pay customs duty on some goods (eg alcohol or tobacco over your duty-free allowance), while other imported and exported goods may be prohibited (eg cultural heritage goods, vegetables and fruits). To avoid any delays at the border, it is essential that you check which rules apply to you before you travel.

Travel Centre website provides updated information on customs and airport tax regulations. For comprehensive advice, it is advised to consult the customs webpage of the country you are travelling to or from.  

Guidance is provided on Oxford Research Data site as well as on Information Security website. To access support send an email to or consult their website.

SLA Piper has produced a map to compare data protection laws around the world

The key recommendations whilst travelling are:

  • Reduce risk by only taking the IT that you really need 
  • Ensure all IT taken complies with the University’s security requirements eg: strong passwords are used, security updates are installed, ensure device encryption is enabled
  • Get your laptop encrypted
  • Install the Oxford VPN and use it when accessing via public networks
  • Don’t rely on local copies and store your data on an appropriate server if possible
  • Back up data before travelling
  • One Drive For Business is a suitable solution to accessing and storing data in a secure environment
  • Do not write down passwords
  • Don’t leave devices unattended and lock access when not in use
  • Avoid entering or accessing sensitive data, including user IDs and passwords, in public places
  • Do not use any locally-purchased devices such as chargers or memory sticks
  • Turn off wifi and bluetooth except when needed
  • Do not use shared PCs or untrusted networks such as public wifi access points
  • Take usual precautions when surfing e.g. only access https sites, avoid accessing untrusted sites.
  • Email is not safe. Be careful with information shared via email. University guidance on staying safe on email can be found on the Information Security website.

Carrying encrypted laptops in certain countries is not allowed